Parents warned of drug-laced gummy candy ahead of Halloween

Experts offer tips for parents with children who plan to go trick-or-treating

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter

As Halloween approaches, pediatricians and safety experts want parents to know how to protect their children because what might look like candy could be injected with drugs.

An Orange Park man was arrested Sunday on charges of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of prescription drugs without a prescription, according to the Clay County Sheriff's Office.  

Deputies said they found a loaded pistol, marijuana brownies and marijuana-laced gummy candy inside 21-year-old Nathan Soto's car. 

The discovery serves as a reminder to parents to check their children's candy on Halloween. The Florida Sheriff's Association warns that people are now injecting drugs like THC, the mind-altering ingredient in marijuana, into gummy candy like gummy worms and Sour Patch Kids.

"It's very hard, especially for a kid, to tell if something has been tampered with, so parents need to be cautious. I think it's better not to let the children eat any of the candy while they're out, and when they get back home, a responsible adult should really go over all the candy," said Dr. Pamela Lindor of UF Health Pediatrics at San Jose. 

Lindor said parents should get rid of anything that looks like it could be potentially damaged, opened or tampered with in any way. She sad drug-laced gummy candies are becoming more common and if a child were to eat just one piece, it could be deadly.

"They could have severe neurologic consequences, including seizures, even seizures that could lead to death. They could have hallucinations or become very agitated. And with certain types of drugs, you can see the opposite of that, where they could seem to be very sedated (and) have depressed respiration," Lindor said. 

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith advised making sure that children don't trick-or-treat alone. If parents can't go with their children, they should make sure that they're in a group.

"I would recommend that you feed your kids before they go out trick-or-treating. That way, they're less likely to try to eat some of the candy along the way. And tell them not to eat any candy until they come back home," Smith said. 

April Willison, a mother of two, said she's saddened by the dangers that children face today. But she said she is ready to be even more vigilant with her daughters this Halloween.

"We don't let (them) eat anything until it's been inspected when we're at home in good lighting and we can make sure that everything is safe," Willison said. 

Lindor also suggested that parents keep a close eye on their children around Halloween, just to make sure nothing seems off.

"I think parents need to trust their instincts. If they notice their child is behaving in a way that's very uncharacteristic for them -- very agitated, hyper, irritable or very sleepy and out of it -- (and) it's something inconsistent for what they would normally see," Lindor said.

Both Lindor and Smith reminded parents that drug-laced candy is just one of many dangers that children face on Halloween. They also urged parents to check candy labels if their children have any allergies and to make sure costumes have bright colors or reflective tape to make sure that children can be seen when walking through neighborhoods. 

Last October, Atlantic Beach police said they arrested David Haddad after he was caught with a car full of marijuana candy. He pleaded guilty in the case and was sentenced to two years in prison. 

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